Toronto is starting to crack down on hookah lounges
The city's ban on hookahs may be two year-old news, but Toronto Public Health is just starting to adopt more punitive measures against lounges still offering shisha smoking as an option for customers.
Layalina Lounge on Church Street near Ryerson is the first business to ever be issued a Closing Order for violating the city's hookah bylaw: the bar was found guilty in court this Thursday after being after being prosecuted by the TPH, and was forced to temporarily shut down.
While many hookah businesses have been fined since the bylaw's passing, Layalina is the first business being forced to cease operations, albeit just for the weekend, plus pay a $1000 fine. It will be back in business this Monday.
Hookah lounges have criticized the bylaw for unfairly targeting a cultural recreation that affects over 70 businesses across the city.
The ban first came into public consciousness in December 2015 – after Toronto city council voted to enact it 34 to 3 – but wasn't enforced until April 2017.
Several lounges communed in 2016 to challenge the bylaw at the Superior Court of Justice – a case which failed to hold its own in court – only to be shot down once more by the Court of Appeal in June 2017.
One business owner even claimed the bylaw violated a section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Brian Mahmoud of Lebanese Palace cited the cultural importance of hookah in Arab and Middle Eastern communities, but eventually dropped his constitutional challenge.
According to a statement, the City of Toronto will "continue to investigate and take enforcement action against business operators of hookah lounges for continued non-compliance."
"As other operators are convicted of non-compliance, they may also be subject to Closing Orders."
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